Thursday, July 31, 2014

'Resident Evil Deck Building Game' (Game Review)

After playing Thunderstone recently, I've gotten way into deck building games.  There's something about coupling the high strategy play of a nerdy card game with the geek-brain aphrodisiacs of statistics and probability that gets my metaphorical rocks off.  If you are the sort of person whose favorite part about Magic the Gathering was building a new deck, these games are for you.  Resident Evil is no exception.

To summarize the gameplay: Everyone starts with the same basic set of cards and currency.  Each turn you can spend currency to buy better cards that then go into your deck and make it (hopefully) statistically more likely to succeed. On turns where your hand is good enough, you make a run at the mansion and hopefully kill some monsters.  On these monsters are the victory points that get totaled at the end of the game leading to victory.

Where these deck building games really take flight is in the functional cards that structure your strategy for your whole deck.  Should you spend your currency on the card that gives you a benefit for having a lot of cards in your deck or the one that gives you benefit for a lot of cards in your discard pile?  Also, these cards are finite, so should you stick with your strategy or buy up the cards that your opponent is trying to get to screw his strategy over?

I'm in love with this genre.  Discovering it feels like the first time I heard punk rock as an angst-rattled, teenage pastor's kid and suddenly life made sense and I had purpose. What does the horror aesthetic of Resident Evil bring to the table that can't be found in games like Thunderstone? Well, oddly enough, unlike the Resident Evil games of the PS1 era that required slow, calculated gameplay, this card game feels more quick and arcade style.  Honestly, going by pace alone, it's more akin to House of the Dead than Resident Evil.

That said, nerds of the franchise have plenty to sink their teeth into.  Each of the player characters from the series have character cards with appropriate strengths and weaknesses that alter play.  The mansion is populated with monsters any fan will recognize.  The functional items, such as healing herbs, are also identical.  I was just sad that the infamous typewriter ribbon wasn't somehow incorporated, although how a saving mechanic would translate to in a card game is anybody's guess.

If you are a fan of Resident Evil and table top gaming, you and your friends need to give this one a try.  It easily killed a Midwest evening for me and my buddy and we are planning on that happening again.  If nothing else, it's another way to take Jill Valentine, the master of unlocking, through the horrors of the Umbrella Mansion while you enjoy taking out T-Virus afflicted baddies.

Grade: A

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Horror Sequels Are Better Than Reboots

Hollywood is creatively bankrupt.

As a horror fan, I've watched franchise after beloved franchise be "rebooted" (I really dislike that buzzword) into generally hollow recreations in an attempt to cash in on nostalgia or draw younger audiences into a scene that they don't have historical knowledge of. What is more upsetting to me than rehash after stale rehash being churned out, is that the energy and money put into these projects is diverting important resources away from one of this genres greatest strengths; sequels.

Horror sequels have been a mainstay for decades, and are far superior to reboots for a number of reasons. Unlike other genres, horror has a number of franchises where the sequels are excellent and in some cases considered better than the original. I'll argue the merits of Evil Dead 2 all day long, and Jason Voorhees didn't even come into his own until Friday The 13th posted a few entries.
Horror fans are always heavily suspending disbelief, so no matter how absurd a situation gets, we're OK with Pinhead and Leprechaun murdering people in outer space. Lep evolving from chasing Jennifer Aniston to exploding out of a dude's crotch in orbit within the span of 3 films is a major achievement.

My issue with reboots is that most of them are simply retreading old territory with some minor alterations. With a few notable exceptions like Dawn of The Dead, that Evil Dead remake, and Piranha 3D they don't shake things up enough to warrant existence. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake featured minor story tweaks and one of the Watchmen as Freddy, which pales in comparison to the creative leaps taken by Jesse's possession in Nightmare 2 or the insanity of the Dream Warriors in part 3. Sequels take horror franchises to new heights, like tremors running around above ground!

It's also a time honored tradition to see a fright franchise reach certain milestones. Back in the 1950's and 1960's, a monster had a Return or their Revenge, and in the 1970's they either spawned a child or met their African American counterpart. There's also the whole issue of crossovers that brought us superstar face-offs like Freddy vs. Jason and Dollman vs. Demonic Toys. In that sense, reboots are stymieing the natural progression of a series by trying to restart it in a different way. I think we can all agree we'd rather see Pumpkinhead terrorize people in the old west than start over in a modern, Lance Henriksen-less scenario.

Even worse in my opinion is the idea of SEQUELS TO REBOOTS, that get us into situations like Leatherface battling Trey Songz in Texas Chainsaw 3D instead of Leatherface battling Matthew Mcconaughey and a plucky young Renee Zellweger in TCM:The Next Generation. There's simply no need to perpetuate a whole new beginning to a film series when you can just name a sequel "A New Beginning" and have your protagonist live in a halfway house.

So there's my rant fellow fright fans. I think we need more VHS vs. REC and SAW MXVII: Jigsaw's Retirement. Which do you prefer, reboots or sequels? Or do you hate both and want more original content like we see coming out of the indie scene? All I know is I don't want to live in a world where I have to re-live Tremors without Kevin Bacon and Michael Gross.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

'Under The Flesh' (Comic Review)

We normally don't review Kickstarter projects on Terrorphoria, but this one was too good to pass up. Under The Flesh is a grindhouse zombie action comic created by Gilbert Deltres and J.L. Giles. It's also worth your time to back so they can get it to print.

Under The Flesh explodes off the pages as LT Rueben Lobos and his group of ladies fight zombies, bikers, and all manner of insanity after "Desolation Day" when a pathogen that only infects males turns half the population into flesh eating monsters. This is what would happen if there was a novelization of Robert Rodriguez directing a post apocalyptic sequel to Charlie's Angels. It's violent, raunchy and offensive in all the right ways.

This one is for fans of over-the-top, "grindhouse" style action, with ridiculous dialogue and as many shootouts as conversations.

You can check out the Under The Flesh Kickstarter project here, and back them if you want to see this rag become a reality.

Grade: A
Reviewed via digital review copy

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

'Afflicted' (Movie Review)

Found-footage movies in a Red Box are like HPV on a college campus. They show up way more than you'd expect, and aren't very fun.

I took a chance reviewing Afflicted based on it winning some awards at a film festival I've never heard of and was too lazy to search for on Google. I went in with low expectations of paper thin plot devices and mediocre jump scares, but was pleasantly surprised to find a decent movie that, while somewhat flawed, managed to avoid most of the pitfalls we've all come to expect from the tired first person fright fests.

It's usually the kiss of death when a person or team decide they are "triple threats" and write, direct and star in their own movie. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse (the aforementioned threats) do an admirable job of being at the helm while simultaneously portraying the lead characters. The plot revolves around two buddies who plan a whirlwind tour of Europe, to be broadcast live over the internet. That last part felt contrived and exacerbated the "found-footage movie" cliche, only because it was completely unneeded other than as a gimmick to hang plot points on. The big conflict is that Derek has a life threatening illness that might become a life threatening risk at any moment on their journey.

Things start off in typical buddy picture fashion with shots of site locales, and them meeting up with friends. Then everything goes south after Derek is torn up by Audrey, the sexy French girl who takes a shine to him at a bar in Paris. After the attack, Clif documents Derek's increasingly strange behavior as he seems to gain super powers a la those kids from Chronicle. He also films some really disturbing side effects which finally lead them to the delayed discovery that Derek is a VAMPIRE. Surprise! Afflicted is a found-footage vampire movie! So now we're in the classic American Werewolf in London conundrum, except Clif is alive and has an internet audience he can voice his worries to thanks to the gimmick I mentioned in the last paragraph. This leads to a lot of "he's a monster, but also my best friend" monologues that attempt to artificially build tension. What doesn't work about it is that they both KNOW Derek is a vampire, and Derek blatantly tells him "No hospitals, run, I'll rip your arms off" in so many words. Eventually the inevitable happens and it's the point where Afflicted flies off the rails a bit.

The focus shifts to a remorseful Derek, who decides his only recourse is finding Audrey and a cure for the curse that has befallen him. He also arbitrarily decides to continue filming the journey because it's what Clif "would have wanted", and of course if he didn't the movie would be over.
This leads to some cool fight scenes with the police and some great cinematography "from the monster's perspective" culminating in a final confrontation with Audrey. This is where the movie should have ended, but it didn't.

At an already brief 85 minute running time, Afflicted should have concluded in a concise and direct way, but instead what we get is pretty much what you see on a certain Showtime series and/or some kind of superhero movie. It's almost like Lee and Prowse weren't satisfied with a morose finale or a 79 minute project.

Script problems aside, Affliction is still an admirable attempt to drain just a bit more lifeblood from a sub-genre that has been sucked dry. If you're in the mood for some shaky camera work and more of those digital effects pioneered by Gatorade commercials, give it a shot.

Grade: B-
Reviewed via Red Box. Running time 85 MIN. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Terrortorial Expansion: 'Discopath'

I absolutely love retro throwback slasher flicks that draw from the 1970's and 1980's. So when I read this review of Discopath over on the Cinematic Shocks blog, I had something new sitting at the top of my watch list on Amazon Prime.

Discopath apparently capitalizes on the lurid sex appeal of the early 80's NYC club scene, while simultaneously defying the stereotype that Canadians are gentle and not serial killers. Combine that with KISS playing during a chase scene and you've piqued my interest. Go check out this great write up if disco music drives you crazy in all the wrong ways!

'Terrortorial Expansion' is a series of posts where Ben and Jeff highlight interesting content they enjoyed by others in the horror blogging community. It is also a play on words referencing historical government policies to make us sound smarter than we actually are.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

'DANIEL' (Movie Review)

Here's a bite sized fear flick submitted for your approval!

Daniel is the latest short film from the minds at Dreamseekers Productions, and it packs an entire story into a pint sized package. Clocking in at only 3 minutes, it's all suspense and no filler.

So take a few minutes to watch it here and give us your feedback. I'm sure Peter and the gang at Dreamseekers would love to know what you think.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Terrortorial Expansion: 'Deliver Us From Evil'

If you've been on the fence about the new Eric Bana vehicle Deliver Us From Evil, then do yourself a favor and check out Shyla Fairfax's excellent review over on her blog Sinema Addiction.

She gives a great rundown on why the film works as more than a sum of its parts, and how a cop drama starring the Incredible Hulk manages to turn some tired ideas on their head and evolve into an effective horror movie.

Get reading!

'Terrortorial Expansion' is a series of posts where Ben and Jeff highlight interesting content they enjoyed by others in the horror blogging community. It is also a play on words referencing historical government policies to make us sound smarter than we actually are.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

'Haven' (Book Review)

Haven is the second installment of the Breadwinner Trilogy of zombie novels by author Stevie Kopas. I was given a review copy to follow up on our review of the first book and I'm glad to report that it's a strong contender in all the ways a sequel should be.

Haven picks up right where The Breadwinner left off. Samson, Veronica, Andrew and the party are sea bound and moving toward the relative safety of the former beach paradise "Haven". They meet up with Gary, a lone survivor who is trying to reclaim the resort from the starving undead. Later, the story shifts focus onto another group of survivors. We're introduced to Michelle, Lulu, and Lulu's cousin Zack. Their story will find them trying to escape Haven as their world comes crashing down at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

Where this sequel finds strength is interplay of its story arcs. While the set pieces of a shopping mall might be reminiscent of Dawn of The Dead, Kopas puts her own spin on things and doesn't fall into many of the tropes we normally expect in the genre. Plenty of twists and turns emerge as the two groups paths begin to intertwine. There is also a stronger focus on character development without slowing down the pace in its short 169 pages. Certain players become more fleshed out, while others simply have their flesh ripped out. In a nod to The Walking Dead, it's a good idea for readers not to get too attached to any one person in this series.

Finally, like any sequel worth its salt, Haven introduces us to the series' core villain. While there have been others with questionable motives up to this point, we finally meet a true antagonist who has premeditated goals and designs. This ups the ante and creates a much needed second focal point of conflict besides the hordes of hungry "Eaters".

Like the first book, Haven is a very fast read that horror fans can finish in a long afternoon. It's action packed, filled with detailed descriptions of gore, and provides a strong foundation for the upcoming third book. I am personally looking forward to seeing where the author takes her trilogy in its finale. I strongly recommend it, especially to anyone with an Amazon Prime account to grab it on their Kindle.

Grade: A-
Reviewed (copy provided) on Kindle. 169 pages.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top 10 "Hey It's That Person! What's He/She In?" Horror Movies

There was once a time, young internet, when you didn't exist.  There was no such thing as an IMDB smartphone app and we that could play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" were Gods among men.

Often, having no handy resource to frequent, recognizing an actor or actress was annoying. Sometimes it would even result in arguments, "I'm telling you, that's the guy from The Secret World of Alex Mack." "I've never even heard of that show, moron, it can't be that!" Cue fisticuffs.

It was a beautiful world that I miss quite dearly.

In lieu of a time machine, I thought I'd count down the Top 10 horror movies that could inspire such arguments.